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Buying a safe used vehicle

There are two critical decisions parents have to make as their children prepare to join the more than 400,000 licensed drivers on Tasmanian roads.

Firstly, how to ensure their children receive the best driving instruction. By that we mean not just to get a licence, but to ensure they're a safe and sensible driver. Secondly, how to get the safest vehicle they can.

Of course, for a young person their first vehicle is more likely to be a used vehicle, in some cases a hand-me-down from parents, grandparents or older siblings. If they enter the market for a used car, they may well be looking not just at price but looks and performance. In both cases, what should be top of mind is the safety of that vehicle.

Just because family members used the vehicle without incident doesn’t always mean it’s been kept in good order and serviced regularly. And if you buy from a dealer or privately, a mechanical inspection is a must as there's no requirement for a compulsory safety inspection before a vehicle is sold in Tasmania, unless it's been deemed unroadworthy or has been out of registration for three months or more.

Older vehicles don't have the safety features of newer vehicles – such as air bags, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, electronic stability control, lane keep assist, variable cruise control and speed alerts. There are also vehicles coming onto the market being fitted with sensors and cameras that detect distraction and alert the driver. These have all been developed to help save lives. They are in our vehicles today because even the best drivers make mistakes. When they do, those safety features can be the difference between being badly shaken and having serious injuries or dying.

The good news is that there are excellent guides available to help you buy the safest car you can afford. Used Car Safety Ratings 2022 is compiled by the Monash University Accident Research Centre and lists 389 vehicles, using a star rating from five to one. And if you're in the market for a ute, it includes them too. On that list, for example, are vehicles 10 years old that get a four-star safety rating. And the very best get a Safer Pick marker. It's based on analysis, using police data, of more than 9 million vehicle crashes in Australia and New Zealand.

ANCAP, the number one authority in rating new vehicles across Australia, tests new cars. However, its historic ratings data is a must-read for anyone in the market for a near-new or used vehicle. You'll find historic ratings data on the ANCAP website.